By Daniel Hill
The Baylor Bears host the Texas Longhorns this weekend for the last home Big 12 Conference baseball series of the season. The Bears are 21-20 overall and 8-6 in Big 12 play.
The Bears are currently fourth in the Big 12 behind Oklahoma, Kansas and Kansas State.
“It’s very important, you know, to win the weekend and get the series,” sophomore right-handed pitcher Austin Stone said. “I know that we don’t have that many more Big 12 games left, and we just need to win as many as possible.”
With only 11 games left in the season, every game is of the utmost importance for the Bears, especially games at Baylor Ballpark.
The series against Texas is Baylor’s final Big 12 home series of the season, and the Bears only have one more nonconference home game.
“[We] just to try to win as many games as we can,” senior Cal Towey said. “I don’t know how many we have to win to get into a regional, but we want to finish strong with our last 10 or 11 games, however many we have left, go to the Big 12 tournament and do what we can do and then make a regional.”
Texas, a traditional baseball powerhouse with a rich history, has struggled this season with a 19-22 overall record. The Longhorns are also last in the Big 12 with a 5-10 record.
Texas has pitching talent but its offense is a different story.
“They have really good pitching but they’ve had a tough time scoring runs,” head coach Steve Smith said. “It’s been a long time since they’ve been big run producers because it’s a big ballpark and they have that slow infield and they’ve been so good for so long. They’re just having a hard time scoring. They’re hitting .260 or so with runners in scoring position. That’s way down.”
Senior right-fielder Nathan Orf leads the Bears offensively with a .403 batting average. As a senior, Orf leads by example with hustle.
“He’s just an all-out guy” Stone said. “He plays hard no matter what. If he hits a grounder and you know it’s just going to be an out, he’s at a full sprint. He’s having fun and he’s just all-out all the time and he’s a great player and that’s what makes him a great player.”
This weekend, the Bears will play Texas today at 6:35 p.m., Saturday at 8:05 p.m. and again on Sunday at 2:05 p.m.
Typically, the weekend series has a night game on Friday and then two day games on Saturday and Sunday. The late 8:05 p.m. start Saturday will be something different for Baylor.
“I don’t think I’ve ever had an 8 o’clock start on a Saturday except for maybe that last super regional game,” senior right-handed pitcher Max Garner said. “It was maybe seven, but it’ll be a little bit weird. I think more the next morning than anything else. It’ll be a little bit easier to play on Saturday because everyone will have a full 24 hours to recover instead of maybe twelve before batting practice and all that kind of stuff. I think the turnaround on Sunday will probably be the one where you’ll see the effect on both teams.”